In an upcoming book she's coauthoring, tentatively titled Darkness Visible: The Psychology of Loss, Patriarchy, and Democracy's Future, Gilligan is examining how the suppression of social and emotional intelligence underlies patterns of ethical injustice. "Our vision of a democratic society is constantly compromised by racism, sexism, homophobia," she says. Anyone conversant with SEL principles would find such bias abhorrent. Without that voice, she argues, "you sow the grounds for various kinds of social injustice. You lose the ability to work out conflict without resorting to violence."

Freedman of Six Seconds swears that teaching social and emotional skills is exactly the same for a corporate executive and a 6-year-old. Back in the Hinsdale school district, first graders absorb a sort of mini SEL manifesto that's permanently posted on their blackboard. Called "Our Promise to Each Other," it reads:

"When we care about each other and our classroom, we are kind and respectful, we listen carefully, help each other learn, always try our best, raise our hand, and have fun together. We keep our hands and feet to ourselves. We stand up for ourselves and others. When someone asks us to stop, we stop. We do all of this, even when no one is watching!"

These kinds of self-mastery lessons are bound to become more widely available to people of all ages through schools, businesses, therapists, and personal growth seminars—with tremendous promise. The idea that you can learn skills like staying levelheaded and articulate during a heated argument, or turning a negative work situation to your advantage with grace and integrity, means that women no longer have to bank on empty phrases to pump up self-esteem; they can say, "Yes, I mastered that," "I handled it well." Imagine the possibilities if abusive men were fluent in the basic SEL tenets of empathy, self-discipline, and handling challenging situations constructively. Consider how any marriage could be improved if the partners were more adept at negotiation, teamwork, and making responsible decisions. And for any woman who has spent years in therapy rooting around the past in search of why her confidence is so shaky, the new self-mastery model offers concrete tools to actually strengthen those foundations. As a result, when she needs someone to lean on, she can always find that person: herself.


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